Father of Cryonics cryonically preserved

Robert Ettinger has been Cryopreserved
Monday, Jul 25 2011 

cryonics
Michael Anissimov
11:36 am

Robert Ettinger, a hero among many transhumanists for fathering the cryonics movement, has been cryopreserved at age 92 in Clinton Township, Michigan. He died on Saturday, July 23.

The Cryonics Institute press release is here. There are a few obituaries online, including one from the Telegraph. Chronopause, a cryonics blog, reviews the history of Ettinger and cryonics.

Ettinger’s 1962 book The Prospect of Immortality and 1972 book Man into Superman inspire many transhumanists to think beyond the “inevitability” of death.

Ben Best was quoted by KurzweilAI.net on the suspension:

“Robert Ettinger deanimated [Saturday] at around 4 p.m. Eastern Time,” said Ben Best, president of the Cryonics Institute. “He was under hospice care and had an ice bath sitting by his bedside. His pronouncement and initiation of cooling was very rapid. The perfusion went well and he is now in the cooling box. Much more later.”

Ettinger’s 1962 book was a turning point in human history. It represented the first time when people acquired the ambition to preserve the fine-grained structure of the human brain at death. Although Ben Franklin had imagined suspended animation centuries earlier, it wasn’t until Ettinger’s 1962 work that the idea became real. Ettinger participated in the first cryonic suspension in 1967.

Ettinger’s first book was republished by Doubleday after it was sent to Isaac Asimov who said that the concept was scientifically sound.

I hope that Ettinger is revived in the not-too-distant future to “taste the wine of centuries unborn”.

One Response »

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Singularity Institute Announces Research Associates Program
Friday, Jul 22 2011 

friendly ai and SIAI
Michael Anissimov
6:05 am

From SIAI blog:

The Singularity Institute is proud to announce the expansion of our research efforts with our new Research Associates program!

Research associates are chosen for their excellent thinking ability and their passion for our core mission. Research associates are not salaried staff, but we encourage their Friendly AI-related research outputs by, for example, covering their travel costs for conferences at which they present academic work relevant to our mission.

Our first three research associates are:

Daniel Dewey, an AI researcher, holds a B.S. in computer science from Carnegie Mellon University. He is presenting his paper ‘Learning What to Value‘ at the AGI-11 conference this August.

Vladimir Nesov, a decision theory researcher, holds an M.S. in applied mathematics and physics from Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology. He helped Wei Dai develop updateless decision theory, in pursuit of one of the Singularity Institute core research goals: that of developing a ‘reflective decision theory.’

Peter de Blanc, an AI researcher, holds an M.A. in mathematics from Temple University. He has written several papers on goal systems for decision-theoretic agents, including ‘Convergence of Expected Utility for Universal AI‘ and ‘Ontological Crises in Artificial Agents’ Value Systems.’

We’re excited to welcome Peter, Vladimir, and Daniel to our team!

5 Responses »

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Clues the Post was a Lie
Friday, Jul 22 2011 

transhumanism
Michael Anissimov
5:15 am

Who needs “transhumanism”?

I am the Secretary of Humanity+. I am a true “child of the Singularity” who has been a transhumanist since around age 7. At that age, I envisioned a machine for reversing aging by arranging molecules on the nanoscale, and planned to invent such a machine if no one else did.

Millions of dollars are going into fields such as brain-computer interfacing, robotics, AI, and regenerative medicine without the influence of “transhumanists”. Wouldn’t transhumanism be better off if we relinquished the odd name and just marketed ourselves as “normal”?

Cool stuff happens because transhumanists are scientists and engineers. Non-transhumanist scientists and engineers are missing a piece of the picture. Ed Boyden, Allan Snyder, Miguel Nicolelis, Aubrey de Grey, the Andregg brothers, Boston Robotics, Hanson Robotics, need I go on? When you visit a multi-million dollar lab and talk to the flagrant transhumanists that run it, you have a tendency to say, “OK, this ideology obviously makes people act differently”. Not everyone wears transhumanism on their sleeve. But they do wear it on their spirits.

Wild transhumanist ideas such as cryonics, molecular nanotechnology, hard takeoff, Jupiter Brains, and the like, distract our audience from the incremental transhumanist advances occurring on an everyday basis in labs at universities around the world. Brain implants exist, gene sequencing exists, regenerative medicine exists — why is this any different than normal science and medicine?

Normal medicine is about healing. Transhumanism is not just about healing, but enhancing. The difference couldn’t be any more fundamental. One exhibits status quo bias, the other doesn’t.

Motivations such as the desire to raise one’s father from the dead are clearly examples of theological thinking. Instead of embracing theology, we need to face the nitty gritty of the world here and now, with all of its blemishes and problems.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to raise your father from the dead, or make a simulacra of him from his DNA and memories.

The nitty gritty of the world here and now is that superintelligence is around the corner and if we don’t get it right then we will perish outright. It’s counterintuitive but that is reality. Sorry if you were expecting something different.

Since the universe doesn’t love us and has no special reason to keep us alive we sort of have to fend for ourselves. Historically, species die out. If you had been personally present at the Permian-Triassic event, you would understand that. Sometimes lava rains from the sky. That’s life. Sometimes nuclear missiles rain from the sky. Sometimes AIs see that your argument for being allowed to exist isn’t sufficiently persuasive to avoid converting you into utilitronium.

Instead of working towards blue-sky, neo-apocalyptic discontinuous advances, we need to preserve democracy by promoting incremental advances to ensure that every citizen has a voice in every important societal change, and the ability to democratically reject those changes if desired.

Democracy is a great idea in principle, but unfortunately the overhead of logistics often make it impractical for fine-grained decisions. That’s why we should build optimization processes that are more sensitive to human needs.

To ensure that there is not a gap between the enhanced and the unenhanced, we should let true people — Homo sapiens — be allowed to vote on whether certain technological enhancements are allowed. Anything else would be irresponsible.

You don’t have to be a member of this species to be a person worthy of value. That is obvious.

The question of which enhancements should be allowed is complex, and not straightforward. I don’t have a solution. There should be public debate.

Another distinction that might help to distinguish ethical technoscience interventions from unethical ones is whether the intervention affects the intrinsic being or essence of a person — for instance, their sense of self or consciousness — or is external to that. The former, I propose, are always unethical, while the latter may not be.

I will intervene in my own essence. If you try to stop me — good luck.

The intrinsic essence and being of a person is not something to be taken for granted — it has been shaped carefully by millions of years of evolution. If we start picking arbitrary variables and trying to optimize them, the consequences could be very unpredictable. Our lust for pleasure and power could quickly lead us to a dark road of narcissistic self-enhancement and disenfranchisement of the majority of humanity.

This is the most serious part of the post. We are on a stable island and any departure should be considered carefully. If we jump like idiots, we will fall into the abyss.

Be careful, self-absorbed narcissistic humans! (All of us, to a very real extent.) Darwinian puppet strings have programmed us to be self-serving hypocrites. I didn’t do it — blame God.

36 Responses »

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Most Popular Posts This Year So Far
Thursday, Jul 21 2011 

meta
Michael Anissimov
8:43 pm

1. Amusing Ourselves to Death
2. Ten Futuristic Materials
3. Top 10 Transhumanist Technologies
4. Brain-Computer Interfaces for Manipulating Dreams
5. The Benefits of a Successful Singularity
6. Six Places to Nuke for Multiplier Effects
7. Response to Charles Stross’ “Three arguments against the Singularity”
8. How Can I Incorporate Transhumanism into my Daily Life?
9. A Nuclear Reactor in Every Home
10. Wish
11. Terraformed Mars
12. Why “Transhumanism” is Unnecessary
13. Hard Takeoff Sources
14. X-Seed 4000
15. Kurzweil’s 2009 Predictions
16. The Illusion of Control in an Intelligence Amplification Singularity
17. Collaborative Map of Transhumanists Worldwide
18. Continuing Discussion with Mr. Knapp at Forbes
19. Paul Graham’s Disagreement Hierarchy
20. The Final Weapon

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The Singularity is Far: A Neuroscientist’s View
Thursday, Jul 21 2011 

singularity
Michael Anissimov
7:26 pm

I haven’t read this, I’m just posting it because other people are talking about it.

Ray Kurzweil, the prominent inventor and futurist, can’t wait to get nanobots into his brain. In his view, these devices will be equipped with a variety of sensors and stimulators and will communicate wirelessly with computers outside of the body. In addition to providing unprecedented insight into brain function at the cellular level, brain-penetrating nanobots would provide the ultimate virtual reality experience.

Article.

2 Responses »

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The Last Post Was an Experiment
Wednesday, Jul 20 2011 

singularity and transhumanism
Michael Anissimov
3:34 am

+1 for everyone who saw through my lie.

I thought it would be interesting to say stuff not aligned with what I believe to see the reaction.

The original prompt is that I was sort of wondering why no one was contributing to our Humanity+ matching challenge grant.

Maybe because many futurist-oriented people don’t think transhumanism is very important.

They’re wrong. Without a movement, the techno-savvy and existential risk mitigators are just a bunch of unconnected chumps, or in isolated little cells of 4-5 people. With a movement, hundreds or even thousands of people can provide many thousands of dollars worth of mutual value in “consulting” and work cooperation to one another on a regular basis, which gives us the power to spread our ideas and stand up to competing movements, like Born Again bioconservatism, which would have us all die by age 110.

I believe the “Groucho Marxes” — who “won’t join any club that will have them” are sidelining themselves from history. Organized transhumanism is very important.

I thought quoting Margaret Somerville would pretty much give it away, but apparently not.

To me, cybernetics etc. are just a tiny skin on the peach that is the Singularity and the post-Singularity world. To my mind, SL4 transhumanism is pretty damn cool and important. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words for why I think so, but there must be something I’m missing.

To quote Peter Thiel, those not looking closely at the Singularity and the potentially discontinuous impacts of AI are “living in a fantasy world”.

72 Responses »

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Why “Transhumanism” is Unnecessary
Sunday, Jul 17 2011 

transhumanism
Michael Anissimov
5:04 pm

Who needs “transhumanism”? Millions of dollars are going into fields such as brain-computer interfacing, robotics, AI, and regenerative medicine without the influence of “transhumanists”. Wouldn’t transhumanism be better off if we relinquished the odd name and just marketed ourselves as “normal”?

Wild transhumanist ideas such as cryonics, molecular nanotechnology, hard takeoff, Jupiter Brains, and the like, distract our audience from the incremental transhumanist advances occurring on an everyday basis in labs at universities around the world. Brain implants exist, gene sequencing exists, regenerative medicine exists — why is this any different than normal science and medicine?

Motivations such as the desire to raise one’s father from the dead are clearly examples of theological thinking. Instead of embracing theology, we need to face the nitty gritty of the world here and now, with all of its blemishes and problems.

Instead of working towards blue-sky, neo-apocalyptic discontinuous advances, we need to preserve democracy by promoting incremental advances to ensure that every citizen has a voice in every important societal change, and the ability to democratically reject those changes if desired.

To ensure that there is not a gap between the enhanced and the unenhanced, we should let true people — Homo sapiens — be allowed to vote on whether certain technological enhancements are allowed. Anything else would be irresponsible.

As Margaret Somerville recently wrote in the Vancouver Sun:

Another distinction that might help to distinguish ethical technoscience interventions from unethical ones is whether the intervention affects the intrinsic being or essence of a person — for instance, their sense of self or consciousness — or is external to that. The former, I propose, are always unethical, while the latter may not be.

The intrinsic essence and being of a person is not something to be taken for granted — it has been shaped carefully by millions of years of evolution. If we start picking arbitrary variables and trying to optimize them, the consequences could be very unpredictable. Our lust for pleasure and power could quickly lead us to a dark road of narcissistic self-enhancement and disenfranchisement of the majority of humanity.

59 Responses »

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$18.5 Million for Brain-Computer Interfacing
Thursday, Jul 14 2011 

BCI
Michael Anissimov
7:34 am

Another university is opening up a BCI lab, University of Washington. It makes sense because it’s near the Allen Institute for Brain Science, among other reasons. Did I mention that Christof Koch, the new Chief Science Officer of the Allen Institute, will be speaking at Singularity Summit?

Here’s an excerpt of the news release:

The National Science Foundation today announced an $18.5 million grant to establish an Engineering Research Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering based at the University of Washington.

“The center will work on robotic devices that interact with, assist and understand the nervous system,” said director Yoky Matsuoka, a UW associate professor of computer science and engineering. “It will combine advances in robotics, neuroscience, electromechanical devices and computer science to restore or augment the body’s ability for sensation and movement.”

The text is pretty generic boilerplate, it’s just the action that is important. We will likely have to wait a year or more before any interesting breakthroughs from this lab hit the news.

7 Responses »

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Richard Yonck: The Hacking of Human 2.0
Thursday, Jul 14 2011 

transhumanism
Michael Anissimov
4:24 am

Yesterday I posted a particularly well-written article to H+ magazine, Richard Yonck’s “The Hacking of Human 2.0″. The use of the word “hacking” in the article is in the negative sense of hijacking rather than the cool sense of hacking. The topic is particularly interesting to me at the moment as I’m watching Stand Alone Complex, which features BCI hacking as a major story element. Here’s the beginning of the article:

With each passing year, the ability to alter our minds and bodies through technology grows. Advances in biotechnology, neuroengineering, robotics and myriad other fields are steadily changing the human condition. Many of these changes will be for the better, but there will be a downside too. In the course of augmenting our physical and mental abilities, we’re also introducing new vulnerabilities, opening ourselves up to invasive attacks that could threaten our finances, our identities, even our lives. In short, we’re quickly approaching a time when we’ll have to protect against the hacking of Human 2.0.

Hacking is defined as accessing or manipulating a system in ways other than its developers originally intended, often exploiting flaws in the system’s design. At first, computer hacking and phone phreaking were activities borne of curiosity and exploration. But over time, the methods and security flaws that were discovered came to be used by criminals and spies for other, darker purposes. It’s a natural progression; anytime conditions present the opportunity to steal or cause wanton damage, there will be some who want to take advantage of them. Transhumanism will soon have to contend with this very problem.

By the way, I am still seeking article submissions for H+ magazine!

Yonck blogs at http://intelligent-future.com. He also contributed the front page article for the most recent edition of The Futurist magazine.

No Responses »

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Dale Carrico Classics
Thursday, Jul 7 2011 

transhumanism
Michael Anissimov
6:56 pm

Just in case there are new readers, I want to refer them to the writings of Dale Carrico, probably the best transhumanist critic thus far. He’s a lecturer at Berkeley. (Maybe The New Atlantis should try hiring him, though I sort of doubt they’d get along.) I especially enjoy this post responding to my “Transhumanism Has Already Won” post:

The Robot Cultists Have Won?

When did that happen?

In something of a surprise move, Singularitarian Transhumanist Robot Cultist Michael Anissimov has declared victory. Apparently, the superlative futurologists have “won.” The Robot Cult, it would seem, has prevailed over the ends of the earth.

Usually, when palpable losers declare victory in this manner, the declaration is followed by an exit, either graceful or grumbling, from the stage. But I suspect we will not be so lucky when it comes to Anissimov and his fellow victorious would-be techno-transcendentalizers.

Neither can we expect them “to take their toys and go home,” as is usual in such scenes. After all, none of their toys — none of their shiny robot bodies, none of their sentient devices, none of their immortality pills, none of their immersive holodecks, none of their desktop nanofactories, none of their utility fogs, none of their comic book body or brain enhancement packages, none of their kindly or vengeful superintelligent postbiological Robot Gods — none of them exist now for them to go home with any more than they ever did, they exist only as they always have done, as wish-fulfillment fancies in their own minds.

You can read the whole thing at Dale’s blog.

21 Responses »

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Matter, Antimatter Origin Theories — Baryogenesis
Thursday, Jul 7 2011 

physics
Michael Anissimov
2:12 am

I remember reading somewhere that one possibility in the early universe is that a tremendous amount of matter and antimatter both formed, most of it annihilated itself, and the small amount that remained became our present matter-dominated universe. From a few casual Google searches I have not been able to find this reference. It was probably some popular physics book written in the 1990s. Possibility one in the summary below would appear to correspond to this scenario, however.

The question is that of baryogenesis, which is not well understood. Here’s the background from Wikipedia:

The Dirac equation, formulated by Paul Dirac around 1928 as part of the development of relativistic quantum mechanics, predicts the existence of antiparticles along with the expected solutions for the corresponding particles. Since that time, it has been verified experimentally that every known kind of particle has a corresponding antiparticle. The CPT Theorem guarantees that a particle and its antiparticle have exactly the same mass and lifetime, and exactly opposite charge. Given this symmetry, it is puzzling that the universe does not have equal amounts of matter and antimatter. Indeed, there is no experimental evidence that there are any significant concentrations of antimatter in the observable universe.

There are two main interpretations for this disparity: either the universe began with a small preference for matter (total baryonic number of the universe different from zero), or the universe was originally perfectly symmetric, but somehow a set of phenomena contributed to a small imbalance in favour of matter over time. The second point of view is preferred, although there is no clear experimental evidence indicating either of them to be the correct one. The preference is based on the following point of view: if the universe encompasses everything (time, space, and matter), nothing exists outside of it and therefore nothing existed before it, leading to a total baryonic number of 0. From a more scientific point of view, there are reasons to expect that any initial asymmetry would be wiped out to zero during the early history of the universe. One challenge then is to explain how the total baryonic number is not conserved.

I’ve been told that a lot of stuff exists outside of our local universe, but I don’t want to make this more complicated than it already is.

5 Responses »

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Experimental Support for Monkey Self-Agency
Thursday, Jul 7 2011 

intelligence
Michael Anissimov
2:06 am

For a contemporary press release relevant to my recent debate with Alex Knapp, “Rhesus monkeys have a form of self awareness not previously attributed to them”:

In the first study of its kind in an animal species that has not passed a critical test of self-recognition, cognitive psychologist Justin J. Couchman of the University at Buffalo has demonstrated that rhesus monkeys have a sense of self-agency — the ability to understand that they are the cause of certain actions — and possess a form of self awareness previously not attributed to them.

The study, which will be published July 6 in Biology Letters, a journal of the Royal Society, may illuminate apparent self-awareness deficits in humans with autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and developmental disabilities.
Rhesus monkeys are one of the best-known species of Old World monkeys, and have been used extensively in medical and biological research aimed at creating vaccines for rabies, smallpox and polio and drugs to manage HIV/AIDS; analyzing stem cells and sequencing the genome. Humans have sent them into space, cloned them and planted jellyfish genes in them.

Couchman, a PhD candidate at UB, is an instructor at UB and at the State University of New York College at Fredonia. He points out that previous research has shown that rhesus monkeys, like apes and dolphins, have metacognition, or the ability to monitor their own mental states. Nevertheless, the monkeys consistently fail the mirror self-recognition test, which assesses whether animals can recognize themselves in a mirror, and this is an important measure self-awareness.

“We know that in humans, the sense of self-agency is closely related to self-awareness,” Couchman says, “and that it results from monitoring the relationship between pieces of intentional, sensorimotor and perceptual information.
“Based on previous findings in comparative metacognition research, we thought that even though they fail the mirror test, rhesus monkeys might have some other form of self-awareness. In this study we looked at whether the monkeys have a sense of self agency, that is, the understanding that some actions are the consequence of their own intentions.”

Continued.

One Response »

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